Why I Wrote: Rosa No-Name

Last week I shared with you why I wrote The Devil and Pastor Gus. Today I’ll give you the background on Rosa No-Name, which will release sometime in late April. Pictured above is a proof copy, used for catching final mistakes before it’s too late.

My daughter, Kristi, went on a short term mission trip to Mexico after graduating from high school. When she returned, certain facts about her trip struck my imagination:

  • She was eighteen at the time. Maybe not really spoiled, but in need of doing some more growing up.
  • She failed to pay attention to the directions she’d been sent about what to bring and not bring. Consequently, she paid for extra luggage to bring a number of things she didn’t need and failed to bring some of the important things she did need. Like a sleeping bag!
  • She was part of a house-building project.
  • That area had a lot of trash on the ground.

Struck my imagination? Ha! Fired it up!

One evening I sat down and roughed out the idea of a story involving all of those elements. That short story was the original “Found in the Translation.” You may read it here. I entered the final version in an online contest, and it placed within the top ten of seventy or eighty entries. That was encouraging!

Even while writing the short story, I knew it would ultimately become a full-length novel. The short story was just the warm up.

You wouldn’t believe the changes I made to the short story in writing the novel, but I was pleased with the outcome. Nobody seemed to want to publish Found in the Translation, though, no matter how my wife and I believed in its merit.

At a Christian writers conference I showed the first couple of pages to writing teacher and overall writing guru James Scott Bell. He advised me that I didn’t have a proper start.

So I cut the first fifty pages and wrote a new beginning. I shared a sample with an editor friend who then asked to see the whole thing and subsequently landed me an agent. Within a year Found in Translation–Barbour Publishing dropped the “the”–and its sequel, Lost in Dreams, were under contract. I was on my way!

But there were a number of things I hadn’t brought out in Found in Translation. I was especially fond of Rosa, the mother of the little girl whose right arm ended at the elbow. Why had Anjelita been born that way? And who was her father? Those are just some of the things the protagonist, Kim Hartlinger, didn’t learn during her time in Santa Maria because of the language barrier.

Consequently, I wrote Rosa No-Name as a prequel. But because it dealt partially with adult situations, I never considered it a teen novel. (I’d never considered the previous two to be Young Adult, either, but because the characters were eighteen, that was the only way my publisher could market them.)

Potential publishers weren’t interested in Rosa No-Name. So just as I’d done with the little play The Devil and Pastor Gus was based on, I stuck Rosa No-Name in a drawer and tried to forget about it. That was ten years ago.

But my wife and my daughter have always been especially fond of Rosa No-Name–they like it better than any of my other published novels and unpublished manuscripts–and five or six months ago I decided to reread it. I fell in love with it all over again, and I felt led to ignore the objections traditional publishers had expressed and go the independent route.

Amazon has a couple of amazing free book publishing facilities–the books aren’t free, just the ability to publish them–and soon I was on my way.

God didn’t whisper in my ear and tell me to publish Rosa No-Name, yet I believe this is what He wanted me to do. My prayers are for its success in blessing and entertaining a number of readers.

Do you think you have a book in you, waiting to be written? It may not be one the general public will be interested in, but perhaps one your children and grandchildren would benefit from being able to read. Is that you? How about leaving a comment?

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Best regards,
Roger

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Why I Wrote: The Devil and Pastor Gus

I was recently challenged to share why I’ve written several of my novels. I’m taking up that challenge today to give you some background on The Devil and Pastor Gus. I’ll talk about Rosa No-Name next week.

My minister father was almost a rabid fan of C. S. Lewis. Although he failed to introduce me to the Chronicles of Narnia, which I discovered quite accidentally while browsing the bookcases of a family I was spending the weekend with in Maine as an adult, he did mention the Screwtape Letters. Probably in a sermon. Even so, I never got to read it until eight or ten years ago.

My father must have mentioned the fact that the Screwtape Letters is a satire about the Devil (Screwtape), who is sending letters of advice to his nephew Wormwood,  who keeps failing to win the enemy (a Christian). I must’ve tucked those few facts somewhere in my head, because I ended up writing a short play, “B.L.Z.,” during the 1970s; it was published in a local, free magazine in 1977.

The Devil, B.L.Z. (B.L.ZeBubb)–named after a very troublesome car my parents used to own–is getting ready to retire, but he’s afraid to turn the reins of his evil kingdom over to his son, Junior, who never ceases to do good when he’s supposed to be doing bad. So he gives Junior one last chance to prove himself.  I won’t give away the ending, though. If you’re interested in reading the play for free, go here.

Writing that play and having it published were fun, but–like so many other things I’ve written–I tucked it away for safekeeping and all but forgot about it.

Ten or eleven years ago I wrote my first novel. And then a second and a third. I envy novelists who seem to have an unlimited supply of story ideas. I didn’t, and I still don’t.

But something–I prefer to think of it as God’s inspiration–made me reread “B.L.Z.” Yes, the language was dated in a couple of places, but the basic idea was sound and I loved what almost happened to Junior at the end.

Ideas began percolating, but was this truly a novel-worthy story?

Once I started writing, I decided it was. I kept B.L.ZeBubb as the antagonist, but relegated Junior to a reference rather than an actual character. And what almost happened to Junior at the end of “B.L.Z.” almost happens to B.L.ZeBubb in the novel. I kept the selling of the soul to the Devil idea, but made Pastor Gus Gospello decidedly more of a protagonist in the novel than he had been in the play. And I tried to retain the satirical quality of the play as well.

One thing I enjoyed in writing The Devil and Pastor Gus was having Gus battle typical problems in writing a first novel. Much of that had to be edited out in the published version, though. My publisher thought those details would be of less interest to most readers (other novelists would be the exception). Plus we needed to cut the length of the book by a number of thousand words.

If you’ve read both the play and the novel, you can easily see the similarities and the differences. If you haven’t–and if you’re curious–it won’t hurt my feelings if you buy a copy of The Devil and Pastor Gus.

Have I said anything you’d like to comment about? Please do!

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Best regards,
Roger

More Pet Peeves

A few months ago I wrote about some of my pet peeves. I didn’t begin to exhaust the possibilities, however, so let me share a few more today.

  • Cats are not dogs. Rather obvious, I suppose, but when a guy and his wife have an adorable miniature dachshund puppy (mini dachshunds will always just be puppies, regardless of their age) who loves to demonstrate how much she loves us and also have a beautiful white cat who is–as is typical with cats–not nearly as affectionate, how could I not regret the dissimilarity?
  • Women don’t think like men. Okay, maybe some women do. But no one comes to mind at the moment. And one of woman’s pet peeves would undoubtedly be that we men don’t think like them.
  • Grass that grows fast enough to need mowing more than once a week. Not that it’s happened in this summer’s heat, though.
  • Political correctness in general. I’ve already done a blog post about that, so no need to elaborate here except to say that I do my best to speak respectfully to and about others. At least within their hearing.
  • People who interrupt someone who’s speaking to try to complete the other person’s sentence for him. Okay, I admit it. I tend to do that at times, too. But it’s far worse when the other person does it to me!
  • People talking on cell phones in public restrooms. More than once I’ve started to respond to someone who I then learned wasn’t talking to me at all. Talking on cell phones while checking out of a store is even more serious. It’s not just misleading at times, it’s rude!
  • Restaurants that quit serving the only food I really liked there. Hmm. Wonder if that’s why the one I’m thinking about closed…
  • Women’s t-shirts with something really cute on the front, but which a true gentleman will never get to finish reading without being accused of staring improperly.
  • And let’s not forget women who dress provocatively without regard for how it will affect the men (and women) who see too much of them
  • Drivers going through the neighborhood late at night with their stereos cranked up high enough to awaken the dead. On second thought, maybe those drivers are already so deaf they don’t realize how loud their so-called music is.
  • I couldn’t end this list without one more traffic-related pet peeve. Drivers who fail to use their turn signals. How many times have you been waiting to pull out when you could’ve done it safely if the person coming from your left had indicated he would be turning right?And how many times have you had to slam on the brakes because the driver in front of you suddenly slowed to make a turn without signalling first? I realize we are all guilty of making unexpected turns at times, but that seems to be habitual for some drivers.

That’s it for now. Do you have any pet peeves you’d like to add? Or any of mine you’d like to disagree with? Feel free to leave a comment.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Ultimate Significance

The Rolling Stones “can’t get no satisfaction” and Bob Dylan wants to have a “satisfied mind” when he dies. Why do I get the impression Dylan and the Stones are pursuing different goals–probably very different ones?

What is satisfaction, anyhow? Is it what the WordWeb dictionary I’m using defines as “the contentment one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or expectation”? And is satisfaction a realistic goal?

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Maybe even a tad judgmental. But it seems to me that whatever the Rolling Stones are hoping to get satisfaction from is apt to be very temporary in nature. A person may eat until he’s satisfied, but he’s still going to get hungry again. No need to elaborate.

At least Dylan’s goal is to be satisfied when he enters eternity. Whatever gives him final contentment must be of an eternal nature. Since “Satisfied Mind” is on one of Dylan’s Christian albums–yes, he wrote and recorded at least three of them–I hope he’s talking about satisfaction with the way he’s lived and his confidence in where he’s going at death. Definitely not temporal.

But what about significance? That’s what this post is supposed to be about.

Significance means importance; that’s the definition I’m using here, anyhow. Contentment and importance are not one and the same, and neither are significance and satisfaction. Those two words are not only not synonyms, they’re almost antonyms.

Time to get personal. I get contentment from a number of things. Having a wonderful wife. A comfortable–but modest–home. Food and clothes. A decent camera and good musical instruments. I have everything I need and  plenty of things I don’t need.

But the contentment those things provide isn’t enough.

Could it be I “can’t get no satisfaction,” either? I’m extremely thankful for all of the blessings God has provided, but do they fulfill my real goal–my desire to be important? Or at least to do something so important it will continue doing good for years after my death.

Five thousand people bought Found in Translation. Twenty-five hundred bought Lost in Dreams. I’m proud of those figures, because I want to believe at least that many people read those books and were both entertained and blessed by them. That did more than make me content. It made me feel important. Or at least that I’d done something important.

Ah, but what about The Devil and Pastor Gus? It’s been out exactly one year. I don’t have the total sales figures, but it seems likely that only a hundred copies have been sold. Perhaps fewer. And this was the novel I’d considered my legacy for future generations. I felt it had the strongest message of anything I’ve ever written–and probably will ever write. In short, that it would be my most important novel.

No matter how much the people who’ve read The Devil and Pastor Gus rave about it–it currently has a 4.4 star rating on Amazon–I’m not content. I wonder whether my best effort to accomplish something truly important has fallen flat on its face.

I could get depressed about this if I allowed myself to. But the truth of one of my original songs keeps coming to mind:

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s helping me in ways I can’t see.
God understands all my problems;
He knows my best efforts are not enough to solve them.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s renewing my faded hopes and dreams.
He always provides the things He knows I need.

I believe God’s holding me in His hands;
He’s shaping me according to plan.
Despite my fears and confusion,
He knows He provides the only real solution.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s drawing from His limitless means.
He always provides the things He knows I need.

Maybe it’s time to let faith take over. What’s most significant ultimately is not what’s important to me, but what’s important to God. And He doesn’t have to do it my way. Or on my timetable. What a mess my life would be in if He’d done everything the way I thought they should be done!

Why should I fret about feeling important here on earth, anyhow? I’m much more desirous of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I arrive in Heaven.

What do you think? Are you satisfied? Do you feel significant? How about sharing a comment?

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

My Next-to-the-Most Favorite Career

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I’ve had four careers. Although writing novels is by no means an income-producing career, it’s certainly my favorite one. It uses a wonderful combination of creativity and writing skills, two things I thank God daily for blessing me with. And I have no one looking over my shoulder but Him. And I view Him as my Helper, not my critic.

But authoring novels has actually been my retirement career. A fact that seems like an oxymoron–the joining of contradictory words or ideas. Like the idea of retirement involving a career rather than sitting around being unproductive.

So, what was my favorite career prior to retirement?

From high school days, I wanted to become a teacher. Of course, I was naive enough to think secondary school students would all be like me. (I was a mediocre student in high school, but an extremely good one in college.) And to think that teaching wouldn’t cut into my free time very much. (That was something I was very protective of.) And that being an education student in college would actually teach me to teach. (Dare I share that the head of my college’s English Department had NEVER taught in secondary schools?)

I liked the kids–for the greater part. But not the teaching. Not as much as I’d expected to, anyhow. And definitely not the preparation and the follow up.

So, what does an unhappy English teacher do next? He goes to work for the state. As an employment counselor/interviewer for a Federal jobs program.

Much different from teaching–for sure. At least I could leave work behind when I went home each day. And occasionally I could look at a successful client and feel good about having been part of his or her success. But I hate to think about all of those clients who had become experts at playing the system.

That job was anything but creative. At least teaching had used a little of my creativity. But the paperwork required by the state job–we weren’t quite to the point of filling out forms on the computer–was a headache. Especially at the beginning and end of each summer with hundreds of kids enrolled in the summer work program.

My parents were a lot smarter than I’d realized.  They realized that their mid-thirties-ish son wasn’t really happy in his job, even though he was approaching the ten year mark in that role. Something started them wondering whether I might enjoy computer programming. And they offered to pay for me to take programming classes at Chesapeake College, which was just a few miles up the road from where I lived.

Were they ever right about programming! Not only did it make use of my creativity, but my logic. Even before starting my studies, I bought one of those Texas Instrument computers–you remember those? they had 64k of memory–and did quite a bit on my own. I proudly remember the Yahtze game I programmed. And saving the code on my reel-to-reel recorder because the TI didn’t have its own data storage facility.

Just as I’d taken my previous college studies seriously, I really ate up my computer classes at Chesapeake College. Twenty-four credits resulted in two certificates–with a 4.0 GPA. I was all set to make a career change. Or so I thought.

Especially when the college hired me as an adjunct instructor to teach programming at a local Black and Decker plant one semester. Now, that kind of teaching was fun–and it made the down payment on our first second car. But it wasn’t programming.

Hmm. Ever hear that “How do you get a job without experience and how do you get experience without a job” question? It proved to be a reality.

Nonetheless, I ended up a junior programmer at what was then still called the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ll save the story of how I got there for a later post, but that got me started on my most exciting and rewarding pre-retirement career. One that lasted almost eighteen years.

I became an expert programming with All-In-1, the code that DEC’s [Digital Equipment Corp.] All-In-1 office automation software was written with. I wrote major applications that we gladly shared with other companies, including a Conference Room Scheduler that I used vacation time to install (for money!) at a site in Oklahoma. Or was it South Carolina? Or both? Too long ago…

I edited the Office Automation section of a national newsletter and wrote numerous technical articles. I won at least one award for my editing (see pictures above) and another for one of the ideas I presented in an article.

I presented sessions at DECUS [DEC User Society] and was invited to give an all day All-In-1 class at Australia DECUS in Melbourne, Australia–all expenses paid. During those years I could’ve found a job anywhere in the world, but I wanted to stay where I was.

But the world of mainframes and minicomputers eventually gave way to personal computers and my expertise was no longer as valuable as it had been. I made an effort to adjust and thought I was doing fine when I transferred to the web team. But there were problems I didn’t know about and I ended up on a team I never succeeded at doing well with.

I won’t go into detail except to say that when I was downsized after a year on that team, it was more of a relief than a shock. And I soon realized that I was too old and too tired to catch up and stay up with the changes in information technology. They came too quickly and too frequently, and they were too severe.

While working at a Target store to supplement the family income, I had time (for the first time ever) to start writing my first novel. The rest is history. With a lot of help from God.

Have you had multiple careers? What was your favorite? How about sharing a comment?

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Summer Comfort

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I grew up in parsonages–eight years in one, three-and-a-half years in another, and five years in a third. Although I was in college after that, I lived in a fourth parsonage off-and-on until after graduation.

I mention parsonages specifically because–unless things have changed drastically, and I pray that they have–they are notorious for their lack of amenities that the homes of most church members have. And generally a lack of adequate upkeep.

But I can’t really blame the lack of air conditioning on the fact that I lived in parsonages. I grew up slightly before the time air conditioners became readily available.

I have fond memories of the window fan that seemed to run all summer long and the individual smaller fans placed in strategic places throughout the house. And of course there were those adjustable slotted wooden devices that could be placed in open windows with the windows themselves closed down against them, holding them firmly in place.

Once I was out on my own, I lived for a while in an air conditioned apartment. What a wonderfully comfortable change!

But then I had to move–and ended up in a third floor apartment with no A/C. I’ll never forget those hot August nights when I would tiptoe down the steps to the second floor landing and zonk out on a sofa there. Still quite hot, but bearable.

Flash forward to more recent years. Like most of you, I’ve had air conditioning for so many years–it took forever to get my first car A/C, but I doubt you can buy a car now without it–I can’t imagine ever having to go back to the “good old years” that were anything but good, at least in terms of summer comfort.

But comfort can still be an issue. Where two or more family members disagree about what temperature the A/C should be set on.

Doesn’t matter, though. I can deal with sleeping beneath a blanket during the summer months to keep from freezing. But who would ever have thought that would be my version of “comfortable” at my age?

What about you? Are you in control of the temperature of your environment? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger

Another Novel that “Tells It Like It Is”

This past Sunday I shared about an exciting new novel–so new it won’t be released until September. I described it as a novel that “Tells it like it is,” a familiar expression from the 1960s. Today I’m talking about another novel–again not due out for a while–that can be described the same way. Like The Breeding Tree, Voice in the Wilderness doesn’t pull any punches.

Here’s what I wrote in my endorsement:

Voice in the Wilderness isn’t a typical political thriller with some romance thrown in. It’s an all-too-realistic look at contemporary America and where we may be heading if we don’t wake up and do something about it before it’s too late. We have a self-centered liberal president who has ignored his oath of office time after time by showing his contempt for the Constitution. A president who piles executive orders upon executive orders to bypass the authority of Congress. And one who believes he’s smarter than the citizens of the United States.

I won’t go so far as to accuse Mr. Obama of planning to create a national disaster that would—in his mind, anyhow—justify using martial law to control the nation and remain in power forever. But this book—fiction though it be—is a reminder that when the citizens of the United States fail to vote republic-loving people into office, anything is possible.

I’ve read a number of good novels recently, but none that had the page-turner qualities Voice in the Wilderness has. The romantic elements helped to give the story balance.

As I look back at what I’ve written about Voice in the Wilderness, I’m thankful that my First Amendment rights still allow me to voice my opinion freely and openly. If this story should come to pass, openness like mine would soon brand me as a terrorist.

“Give me liberty or give me death.” And may Voice in the Wilderness not simply entertain its readers, but make them more conscious of what’s going on—and what could happen in the near future.

If you get your news only from the liberal news sources, what I’ve said about Mr. Obama probably sounds like the worst of libel. But if you connect with Fox News or similar more conservative news sources, you’ve heard the other side of the story and understand where I’m coming from.

What perfect timing that Voice in the Wilderness is coming out ahead of the next presidential election, even while candidates are jockeying for position in what will undoubtedly be the most important election in decades. Possibly ever.

ARCS (Advance Review Copies) of H. L. Hegley’s Voice in the Wilderness are available. Although certain to contain minor mistakes, they don’t get in the way of the story. Go HERE to check them out.

I pray that Voice in the Wilderness will make a number of readers start looking at what’s going on in America and  take stock of what’s at stake and determined to make their votes count–no matter which side they’re on.

This is a controversial subject. I don’t expect everyone who reads this post to agree with me. But if it makes you think, I’m satisfied. Please leave a comment if you’re inclined to, but keep it respectful. Thank you.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger